Azari & III stay hungry for the groove

Osheaga is often pegged as an indie rock festival. But, thanks in part to the Piknic Électronik stage, there’s always plenty to dance to. Toronto’s Azari & III, for example.

Azari & III

These sinister dons of dance had been part of the Toronto scene for a number of years before taking their act—an intoxicating blend of electro and vocal house that eschews current trends in favour of sounds that subtly reference the golden era of ’90s dance music—to the international festival circuit. I recently spoke with the production arm of the group, Dinamo Azari and Alixander III, who shed some light on current trends in dance music and gave me an update on what the future has in store for the group.

In the few years since they first made a name for themselves, the quartet of Azari, Alixander III and vocalists Fritz Helder and Starving Yet Full have already played some of the biggest stages around, from Glastonbury in England to the Sónar Festival in Spain.

While dance music has played a prominent role in large scale festivals in Europe, it is a relatively new phenomenon around these parts. “When we first started, it was a little slow here [in North America]. Just three years later, it’s gotten quite busy, even in our own cities,” says Alixander III, referencing their performance at last month’s all-electronic Digital Dreams Music Festival on the Toronto waterfront (which, funnily enough, is the only festival I know of that advertises “VIP bottle service experiences” on their homepage).



While Azari & III may travel in those circles from time to time, they seem a bit wary of the incredible hype surrounding the current glut of EDM festival mainstays.

“I’d like to bring some rock ’n’ roll back into it—and I’m not talking indie rock. With this huge dose of electronic music that is out there now, I don’t think anyone else needs too much exposure. I’d be looking for some young kids that are playing guitar again—you know, bring some integrity and energy back into it.”

That’s not to say that we will likely see them moving into radically different sonic territory anytime soon. “We haven’t really played ourselves out yet so we still have a fresh feeling of energy when we get up there. We get right into it and lose ourselves in our shows,” says Azari.

For now, it seems their primary focus will be back in the studio, where they’ve already been at work on their sophomore album.

“We toured so much off the first record [2011’s eponymous debut] that we never really found the time to get back to the studio too much, and when we did, it was usually for a remix or something,” Alixander says. “Finishing our next record is pretty much our number-one priority right now.”

As for what fans can expect from their upcoming performance at Osheaga on Saturday, Azari hints, “We’ve got some new songs in the setlist from the next album. We’ve already started playing them live.” ■

Azari & III perform at Osheaga (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Piknic stage) on Saturday, Aug. 3, 5:40 p.m., sold out

Azari & III will also DJ at the official Osheaga afterparty at Théâtre Corona (2490 Notre-Dame W.) on Saturday, Aug. 3, 11 p.m.–3 a.m.

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